Hey ladies....join me in sharing a short spooky story just in time for Halloween. No pressure here just write something fun and scary. Are there other ghosts and goblins lurking about Mel's???? Tosses another log on the campfire and waits.
Alli _________________ Alli
Last edited by Allison on Fri Oct 01, 2010 1:55 am; edited 1 time in total
Fri Oct 01, 2010 1:45 am
Joined: 12 Oct 2005
Pepper Monroe, a second year History student was spending a leisurely Saturday afternoon in a rural church cemetery when she ran across the headstone of one Zula Gore. At first the grave marker was not all that unlike others in the small cemetery, but when Pepper’s eyes traveled down the words carved in the rough hewn stone, her heart leapt to her throat.
Stop ye travelers as ye pass by
As you are now so once was I
As I am now so ye shall be
Prepare for death
And follow me
Most markers were either left the natural color of the stone or highlighted in black to make the engraving more prominent, but the words on this marker were the color of dried blood. Pepper felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand at attention as she moved in for a closer inspection. The dates on the marker showed that Zula had died at a relatively young age. It was inscribed that she was born on November 13th, 1886 and died October 31, 1929.
A warm wind picked up and blew a handful of weeds from a small, flat marker on the grave next to Zula’s bringing Pepper’s attention to the name. It simply read: Jonah Gore, a good son and the date of his birth was February 14, 1916 and his death was recorded October 31, 1927. She immediately found it odd that the son preceded his mother in death exactly two years to the day.
Pepper took a notepad from her backpack and wrote down the names, dates and the epitaph on both markers.
Zeke Abrams sat on a rickety wooden bench under a scraggly oak tree as he watched the young woman walk through the cemetery. He had been the caretaker of the cemetery for the small church for fifty years before a stroke had rendered him incapable of performing the manual tasks, fifteen years earlier. Still, Zeke enjoyed spending the warm fall afternoons of the Central Alabama town visiting friends and loved ones at the old cemetery. His curiosity had been struck when he saw the young white woman enter the cemetery and begin making her way through the small mass of headstones until she stopped and was frozen for quite awhile in front of the grave of Zula Gore. His eyesight may have been failing, but Zeke knew the layout of the cemetery like the back of his withered black hand.
He watched as the young woman made notes on a pad and stood to take a closer look at Jonah’s marker. She remained transfixed on the two grave sites for much longer than he had expected when made Zeke’s curiosity burn even brighter. With a great deal of effort he hauled himself up from the bench and began a slow procession across the cemetery.
Pepper was concentrating so intently she did not hear the old man’s approach. “I see you have taken an interest in Zula,” the old man said.
Pepper jumped sideways, startled by the unexpected voice. “I’m sorry, I did not know you were beside me,” she said as she turned to speak to the time-withered black man standing beside her.
“Nor did I mean to frighten you,” he spoke. “I assumed everyone could hear these shuffling old footsteps from a mile off, but I guess you were concentrating on something else.”
Pepper was instantly at ease with the old man. The brightness in his ancient eyes and the warmth in his smile drew her closer to him.
“My name is Pepper and I’m a student at the local University,” she explained. “I have a project for one of my classes at school and I was hoping to receive some inspiration from a visit here.”
“That must be a really odd class,” Zeke said, “If you can gather inspiration from a bunch of old bones.” He smiled back at Pepper as he accepted her outstretched hand. “My name is Zeke, young lady and I’m pleased to meet you. Not too many folks left to visit these graves,” he added.
“It’s a history of Alabama class and I was looking for an event that chronicled the life of a first generation free born African American,” she explained.
“You have certainly found an interesting set of graves for that story,” Zeke said with a deep sigh.
“Do you know the story of this woman and her son?”Pepper asked.
“I was the caretaker here for fifty years, if there’s a story about these folks death, I typically know it,” he said. “If you will join me back in the shade, I will gladly tell you the story of Zula Gore and her son Jonah.”
“I would really like that,” Pepper said as she walked with him slowly back to his bench. Pepper took at seat on the ground next to Zeke and removed two bottles of chilled water from her backpack. She handed one to Zeke as he settled back into his bench and then took up her notepad.
“I noticed an odd coloring to the engraving on her marker,” Pepper said.
“Yes, it is definitely an oddity, but that will be explained later in my story.”
“Zeke, would you mind if I tape recorded your story so I can concentrate on the details without having to make notes?”
“That would be fine, Little Lady he said.
Pepper smiled up at him and remained patient as he sipped his bottled water and looked down at her as she pulled out a small recorder. “The story of Zula Gore is a tragic tale of murder, voodoo, witchcraft and hatred. As you have surmised, Zula was the first generation born free of emancipated slaves who had worked the cotton fields of Alabama ever since they could walk. Her Mother was reportedly involved in the practice of Voodoo and I believe that lead to some of the fear surrounding Zula’s life, but now I am getting ahead of my own story.” Zeke looked at her with eyes shining bright and continued his tale.
“Zula’s parents were small time sharecroppers after they were freed from slavery and worked hard from dawn until dusk to grow enough food to scrape by and raise their young daughter. Because of the ways of the old South, Zula was not allowed to go to school like the white children and spent her childhood working long, difficult hours beside her parents in the fields and garden of their small home.” He smiled to himself as if remembering the look of Zula’s face. “Her mind burned with curiosity and she eagerly soaked up every word and every story that was passed on to her by her family and anyone else in this small town she came in contact with. Even though Zula never learned to read or write, she was thought of as an intelligent and earnest young woman.”
“Did you know of Zula personally?” Pepper asked.
“Heaven’s no child. I’m old, but I was a mere infant when Zula died. I know the tale from the telling of my own parents and other’s in this small town.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to assume,” Pepper apologized.
“No harm, My Child,” Zeke said with his soft voice.
He cleared his throat and took another sip of water. “After the emancipation, the large plantations were divided up and the owners that had made their fortunes from the blood and sweat of slaves moved away to Birmingham or other cities to enjoy their wealth, leaving behind the now freed slaves and the poor whites that had also fallen victim to the prejudice of the plantation owners.”
“So you have lived here for all of your life?” Pepper asked.
“Except for my time spent overseas fighting the Big Wars,” Zeke said. “I had a wife Elizabeth who passed a few years ago, but we were never blessed with children,” he said rather sadly.
“I’m sorry for your loss,” Pepper said, not knowing what else to say.
“Thank you, but we had a grand adventure together and I’m happy she is no longer suffering in pain from the cancer,” he explained. “Anyhow,” he paused. “Zula’s parents lived a quiet life, scratching out a meager living on the land leeched nearly barren by cotton. The angry whites that were left behind by the plantation owners made no attempts to hide their participation in the Klu Klux Klan and many a black family was ravaged by their hatred. Zula’s father was spared a hanging, but suffered a horrendous whipping which took months for him to recuperate from.”
“Sounds like a truly horrible time to be alive,” Pepper said.
“Yes and no,” Zeke said. “We were blessed with our freedom, but continued the battle of hatred against us because of the color of our skin, but here I go drifting again.”
Pepper tried to remain quiet and refrain from asking questions of the old man. She feared he would tire halfway through the story and fought against her curiosity to ask more questions.
“So Zula grew to be a handsome and strong young woman and one day a young man walked into their field and asked to be allowed to work for a meal. His name was Henry and he was travelling north from New Orleans in search of his fortune. You can stay for a meal, but you won’t find a fortune here,” Zula’s father had told the ambitious young man. “His fortunes forgotten, Henry fell head over heels in love with Zula and took her as his bride. It took only two months for Zula to become pregnant with his child, the one you see buried next to his mother,” Zeke said.
Pepper was thankful of a soft breeze that had begun to blow that cooled down the warm afternoon. She took a drink and watched Zeke carefully for signs of exhaustion. She knew he was not a young man and worried for his prolonged exposure outside, no matter how much she desired to hear the entirety of his story.
“Henry had walked into town to make payment to the midwife who would soon be delivering his child and he ran into trouble. Several of the town’s young men had been sharing a jug of moonshine all day and were driving around looking for some excitement.” Zeke paused to take a long breath. “Their excitement was ignited when they found Henry walking back to the farm alone and in the growing darkness,” he said. “What they did to that young man was beyond any cruelty that could be imagined and when his body was found three days later he was almost unrecognizable. The trauma of his death took its toll on Zula who collapsed when she was told of his demise.”
Pepper could not restrain the question that was bursting from her lips. “Did they catch Henry’s killers?”
Zeke smiled at the woman, who would have no recollection of the state of life during his time. “The Sheriff had a good idea what had occurred and who were involved, but charges were never brought against the four white men. Everyone in town knew they were guilty but because of their involvement with the KKK, no one would come forward.”
“So his murderer’s never received punishment for their crimes?” she asked.
“Well, not in the sense you are expecting,” Zeke said. “Justice was never rendered by the law, but each of the four men met with horrible deaths of their own,” he said with an eerie smile. “Zula was so distraught by the murder she went into labor nearly a month early and her son Jonah was born. He was light skinned and beautiful like his father, but his premature birth was difficult and he was never like other kids. We called them simple minds back then and I reckon today he would have been labeled retarded, but Zula loved him with all she had.”
Zeke took a drink of water and Pepper noticed he looked strained. “Are you too tired to continue?”
“No, Dear, I’m just catching my wind,” he said with a warm smile.
“Nothing was ever proven, but legend has it that Zula’s mother used her powers of black magic to exact her revenge against the men who had murdered Henry. One by one each of them had tragic accidents. The first was struck down by a train as he staggered drunk down the tracks one night. There was no reason for him to be even close to the tracks, but his mangled body was found one early Saturday morning.”
“The second man was clearing a blockage in a thrasher and his arm was caught in the sharp rotating blades. He lost his arm and a great deal of blood, but did not die immediately, but suffered for weeks as gangrene set in and his body was riddled with infection and he died a painful death.”
“Zula had suspected that her Mother had something to do with their deaths and her suspicions were confirmed when she walked into her room one night to see her Mother fashioning two voodoo dolls from old rags that held a shocking resemblance to the two remaining men.”
Zeke smiled an odd smile. “On the night of the one year anniversary of Henry’s murder, Zula’s Mother took her two dolls and soaked them in lamp oil then started walking out into the night. She found the two remaining murderers sharing a bottle of liquor in an old barn. With a quick incantation the men were paralyzed and she took out a wooden match to light her dolls as their eyes were frozen in horror. She tossed the burning dolls on a bale of straw and turned to walk for home with the agonizing screams of the men ringing in her ears.”
“From then until the day of her death, the people of the town softly whispered “Witch” and crossed themselves whenever Zula’s Mother passed by.”
“At least they got what was coming to them,” Pepper said.
“Yes, they did, but the fear and the hatred still remained. Jonah grew slowly and was never equal to kids of his size, but his heart was pure and full of love. He worked beside his Mother in the fields until dark fall with never once a complaint.”
“When he was eleven, he pleaded with his Mother until she allowed him to go out with two other boys to celebrate what we now call Halloween. Times were still hard for the sharecropper families, but the children would be given roasted pumpkin seeds and whatever treats the families could afford to make. It was a special night for the children, equal to Christmas to them.”
Zeke leaned forward to stretch his back as he caught Peppers eyes with his. “Badness prevailed on that dark night. Three drunken teens found Jonah and his friends walking from house to house and chased them down with their truck. The two younger boys with Jonah were able to escape by ducking into a corn field and running for help.”
“Oh Dear, I hate to think what is coming next,” Pepper said.
“Jonah was so trusting of everyone and even when the boys called him a dim witted retard, he thought they were playing a game with him. The boys beat him and then tied a rope around his ankles and drug him to his death behind their truck.”
Pepper gasped in shock. “Dear God.”
“When the rope finally broke it ironically did so in front of Jonah’s home and Zula heard her son cry out to her before he died. The boys had stopped the truck and were laughing until Zula turned her fearsome gaze on them. They rushed back into the truck and in their haste one of the boys grasp slipped and his body went under the truck to be crushed to death. The other two stopped only long enough to toss their friends body in the bed of the truck and disappeared. It was rumored Zula’s howls of pain could be heard for miles as she cradled her son in her arms.”
“That is so terrible.”
“As you would imagine, Zula was never the same after that. The loss of her beloved Henry has been bad enough, but the loss of Jonah was devastating. She worked in the field each day, moving like a zombie and spoke to no one other than her Father. Once more the black child’s killers remained free.”
“I can’t begin to imagine her pain,” Pepper admitted.
“It was more than any one human should have to endure,” Zeke said. “Such cruel and senseless murder of a complete innocent was unforgivable. For the next two years on Halloween, the anniversary of Jonah’s death, Zula practiced the dark magic her Mother had taught her. The first boy was found in his truck beneath the murky waters of a local pond. Zula’s Father found the doll submerged in the jar of water the next morning and destroyed the evidence.”
Zeke sighed deeply and Pepper hoped the end of the story would come soon as his weariness was written all over his face. “The following year, the last boy involved in Jonah’s murder was found hanging in his family’s barn.
Her Father went in search of his daughter and found her lying on Jonah’s grave, a voodoo doll hanging by a string was still clutched in the hand of his dead daughter.”
Zeke drank the last of the water. “To end this gruesome tale I will tell you about the odd coloring you mentioned on her headstone. As you have guessed the words are colored by blood. Each year on Halloween blood drips from the epitaph inscribed on Zula’s grave and no amount of bleach or chemical can remove the stain.”
Pepper cocked her head at his comment. “Does that actually happen?” she asked.
“Come by tomorrow and see for yourself,” Zeke said.
“Oh Dear tomorrow is Halloween,” Pepper said.
“Yes, it is and now My Dear, you know the story of Zula Gore,” he said.
Pepper turned off the recorder and replaced it in her backpack. “Thank you for sharing that with me. May I give you a ride,” she offered.
“Thanks, but no, I will wait a little longer and then make my way home,” he said. “Good luck with your project.”
Pepper surprised even herself when she stood and bent down to kiss Zeke on the cheek. “Thank you,” she said with tears in her eyes.
She returned to her dorm in a rather solemn mood and listened to the tape recorded story two more times before she started writing her paper. She wrote deep into the night and then closed her computer to get some sleep.
Pepper slept until noon and then showered and dressed before grabbing some lunch. She passed several students dressed up for a Halloween party on her walk back to the dorm. She stopped off for her keys and drove back to the cemetery where she had spent the previous afternoon. Her eyes traveled toward the back of the church and Zeke was sitting on his bench.
He raised his hand in a wave as she passed by and drove to the section where Zula’s grave was located. She stepped out of her car and walked to the foot of Zula’s grave and looked up at her stone. Her eyes grew wide as streaks of blood ran from the words inscribed in the marker to drip down to the head of Zula’s grave. Pepper had assumed the blood would be part of urban legend but there was no doubt that the stone was bleeding before her eyes.
She spun on her heels and looked to the bench to find Zeke mysteriously absent. She rushed back to her car and drove back to the church to search for him to no avail. The old weathered man who had shared the story with her had disappeared. She sat on his rickety bench and listened to the breeze and heard a whispered voice recite:
Stop ye travelers as ye pass by
As you are now so once was I
As I am now so ye shall be
Prepare for death
And follow me
Goose flesh prickled Pepper’s skin as she walked back to her car and returned to campus. For the next two years on Halloween, she took a small bouquet of flowers to Zula’s grave and saw the fresh blood as it flowed down the stone. Each trip she would look for Zeke, but never again would she see the man who befriended her on that late fall day. _________________ Alli
Fri Oct 01, 2010 1:54 am
Joined: 22 May 2006
Man Alli, I wish I had the patients, focus and drive you have for writing, Oh and let a long I can't spell lol But your such and awesome writer my patients and focus is greater when I read your stories.
This is and awesome write, hmmmm makes me wounder if it's true , you wrote it so well.
Tue Oct 05, 2010 9:45 pm
Joined: 12 Oct 2005
Grins at Ladie........some parts are, I will leave you to ponder which ones.
Alli _________________ Alli
Tue Oct 05, 2010 11:22 pm
Joined: 02 Jun 2007
Location: I come from a land downunder
Awesome Alli, I like that it is not 'over the top' scary but leave you thinking! Sorry I'm a bit too busy to be writing at the moment.
HugZ, MG _________________ Be yourself.............everybody else is taken!
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